After a frustrating offensive performance against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, the Canucks got exactly what they needed: an early goal, and who better than the Sedins to get the team on the board. Buoyed by four first period goals from each Sedin, Dale Weise and Christopher Higgins, the Canucks cruised to a 5-1 victory over an insipid Nashville Predators club.
There’s nothing like a poor performance from an elite NHL goaltender to put things in perspective. And to be fair to Pekka Rinne, he was certainly the victim of bad bounces and a lackadaisical defensive unit. Sound familiar?
Roberto Luongo rebounded with a steady, albeit uneventful, performance in stopping 25 of 26 shots. It didn’t start well for the much-maligned goalie, as he reacted poorly to a bounce off the boards to allow Matt Halischuk to even the game at one. I don’t want to nitpick too much, but Luongo has got to prioritize his position in the crease over getting in front of a dumped puck. He admitted as much in the post-game interviews. It was smooth sailing from that point on, as the uninspired Predators didn’t really test Luongo in the final 50 minutes. If anything, it should be a confidence booster for Luongo and we all know how streaky he can be.
It was a very solid performance for Dale Weise who (obviously) had a lot of jump after scoring his first goal in the NHL. Vigenault put him out with the Sedins after a penalty-kill and the gritty forward almost tallied a brace in the first period. He later set up Marco Sturm on a gorgeous saucer pass in the second period and was very effective with his speed on the forecheck alongside Max Lapierre, who also enjoyed a good night for Vancouver. Fellow-bottom six winger Sturm had one of his best performances as a Canuck and was unlucky not to score with his feet in the first period and his stick in the second. He looked confident in possession and had a few good shifts of cycling the puck in the final fourty minutes. A positive sign, but we still need to see more consistency from the oft-injured German.
The strong showing’s for Vancouver extended to the back-end, where Keith Ballard continues to impress. The American-born blueliner, much to my surprise, has fit in nicely with Kevin Bieksa. I’ve always liked the idea of having a freelance, rushing defenceman paired with a safety valve, stay-at-home blueliner. But the rushing duo of Ballard and Bieksa has looked good and the two are being trusted in defensive zone situations to boot. The pair led Vancouver blueliners by starting eight shifts during faceoffs in the Canucks zone and played the most even strength ice time on the team. Unsurprisingly,Sami Salo was a definite upgrade on the first-power-play unit for the ailing Mikael Samuellson. Fans and media have been calling for the fragile defenceman to be moved up and here’s hoping Alain Vigneault has the good sense to put Salo on the point on a permanent basis.
That has to be one of the worst performances I’ve seen from Shea Weber, who took a stupid cross-checking penalty in the second period and did himself one better by hitting Jannik Hansen squarely from behind in the final stanza. It wasn’t a crushing blow by Weber, but he had time to react to the situation saw Hansen’s numbers and decided to hit him anyway. I think that hit merits a discussion of a suspension from Mr. Shanaban, my guess is a game or two.
All that being said, Nashville was without two if its best forwards in Martin Erat and Martin Fisher and didn’t look ready to play from puck-drop. Jason Botchford tweeted he was considering putting this game in the Roxy effect folder, but how about we give some love to other fine watering holes in Vancouver. Was anyone at the Cambie or Steamwork’s last night?